The notion of a cult US TV show that has garnered more column inches than viewers – think Arrested Development or Joss Whedon's Firefly – is nothing new.
Normally these shows do battle with their networks and die a limp death to the dismay of fans. Community, an equally cultish sitcom hit for NBC (shown here on Sony Entertainment TV) has had almost as complicated a production history as it has critical lauding.
Community is widely acknowledged as one of the smartest shows on television – a self-reflexive, meta, pop culture-infused post-modern show about six students at a second-rate community college. Its creator – Dan Harmon – was called a "mad scientist of sitcoms" by The New Yorker's TV critic, which sounds like high praise indeed. His ideas included episodes made using claymation and 16-bit video games.
Harmon's madcap vision made Community what it is to its fervent fanbase, but thanks to rubbing his studio up the wrong way, he was dumped for the show's fourth series and replaced by two new writers. The TV equivalent of kicking Paul Weller out of The Jam and replacing him with Mike Joyce and Andy Rourke.
Community's new series started in the US at the end of last week and the verdict was... mixed. Some, like the Vulture website's Josh Gondelman, reckoned the new show "killed it". While The Atlantic wondered if fans of the Harmon-helmed series were endorsing a "hostile corporate takeover" of their show (its conclusion: no).
British viewers will have to wait to judge for themselves. Series three of Community is yet to air here, despite its debut in the US in 2011.